by Sherry Morris
In unguarded moments the call catches me out, making me shiver more than the cold. I close my eyes and see Highland hills with snow, Nana and Gramps, and visits that last past Hogmanay. Sometimes we’re walking in the woods, sometimes we’re sledding. I see my brother, Henry. He’s eight, I’m ten. We’re laughing as the dog attempts to fetch our snowballs. I open my eyes then, hoping the images don’t change.
They always do.
We figured the pony escaped and came to the loch to drink. With its shiny black coat, thick mane and a tail so long it dragged the ground, it was a mesmerising creature. When it kneeled near us and gestured towards its back, Henry ran to it, grabbed its mane, which seemed to twine around his wrists, and climbed aloft to sit bareback. A whispered caution floated on the breeze. I stepped back. The pony bared its teeth, rolled its bright green eyes, then turned and headed towards the loch with Henry.
I ordered him to dismount but he seemed stuck, unable to move. He looked back at me confused.
An old man emerged from the woods shouting Cold patch! Cold patch! I didn’t understand the words, but I understood the tone. I gave chase, but the old man stopped me. We watched as the pony went deeper, Henry clinging to its neck screaming and struggling uselessly, as the horse took him under.
Back at the house Gramps slumped in a chair while Nana wept. We hadn’t known malevolent water spirits occasionally emerged from sunken caverns to lurk near loch-edges, using their magical hide to trap and drown children. Gramps explained how sometimes calling their Gaelic name, Colpach, stopped Kelpies. But not this time.
My brother’s Christmas present was a watery grave.